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Contents

Cover

Coin Page

Ready, Set, Go!

Title Page

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Sneak Peek

Tabloid

Copyright

London, England

J. Rutherford Pierce watched the queen of England carefully as he made his way down the endless receiving line. First the prime minister of Australia, then a British pop star, now a French actress . . . The queen smiled, nodded, shook hands, and made small talk with each one of them, over and over and over again while photographers recorded every gesture. Pierce waited for his moment, his turn in the spotlight.

Of course, as the head of Founders Media he controlled most of the newspapers and TV stations, so he made sure his tour was the top story every day. But he had to give the reporters something to report, and that was the fun part. That was where he got to be creative. He might look like any handsome, superfit mogul touring Europe before announcing his candidacy for president of the United States, but his movie-star smile blinded the masses to the truth: With every stare, he was planting seeds for his masterpiece — world war.

With his wife, Debi Ann, at his side — sweet, quiet, helmet-haired Debi Ann — he’d managed to alienate every European leader he’d met.

So far.

When he and Debi Ann finally reached the head of the line, the queen smiled and nodded at him just as she had to everyone else. Debi Ann lit up like a child on Christmas and gave the queen a deep curtsy.

Curse Debi Ann. He’d clearly instructed her not to curtsy. British subjects were required to curtsy before the queen, but Americans were not — though curtsying was encouraged and every other woman at the reception had done it. The plan was for Debi Ann to defiantly refuse to curtsy to a monarch. But she couldn’t even handle that simple instruction.

Twenty minutes later, the pomp and circumstance was over and he and Debi Ann were seated at a tea table with the queen. He picked up his teacup. It was so delicate, made of fine bone china, white trimmed with gold, from the seventeen hundreds. Priceless, he thought. His mind couldn’t help calculating the value of everything around him.

And then, once again, it struck him — that odd, annoying tremor. His fingers shook ever so slightly, and he couldn’t control them. It was worse than the last time, in Spain, when his left leg shook visibly enough that he had to sit down to hide it, mystifying and conveniently insulting the Spanish king.

The tremor jolted his hand and he dropped the priceless china cup.Crash!Tea splashed over the antique carpet and the cup shattered against the leg of the queen’s chair. A few droplets of tea dotted her pale blue silk pump.

At the sound of trouble, the photographers swarmed. They snapped pictures of Pierce, the broken cup, the stained carpet, the queen’s annoyed expression. It flashed over her face for only an instant, but they caught it. He’d flustered her, broken her practiced composure.

It could have been a disaster. But Pierce’s quicksilver mind calculated a way to turn this mishap to his favor.

These days, everything seemed to go in his favor. Funny how that worked.

“Sorry there, ma’am,” Pierce said, putting on a homespun American accent.

“Don’t worry, it’s quite all right,” the queen assured him coldly.

Pierce was accosted by reporters on leaving the palace.

“What happened with the teacup?”

“Was the queen upset that you broke her china?”

“Will this affect US-British relations?”

“The queen didn’t look happy, did she?” Pierce jested with the press. “Well, I’m sorry if one of the richest women in the world was upset over one little teacup, but if you ask me, I did her a favor. Did you see how old that china was? I think it’s about time she got some new dishes.”

The joke hit its mark. The reporters laughed, and that night Pierce’s quip was all over the international news. American Businessman Tells It Like It Is, one headline read. J. Rutherford Pierce’s Working-Class Background Shows, said another.

That “working-class background” was completely made up, of course. Pierce had expanded his father’s newspaper company into a global conglomerate, but he hadn’t exactly started out with nothing.

“Back in the States, Mr. Pierce’s supporters are watching this European tour and cheering him on,” an anchor reported. The film showed a group of Americans wearing tricorne hats, carrying signs that saidPATRIOTISTS FOR PIERCEandWE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ TEA!

It was all a lot of background noise, a smoke screen to cover up his real goal: to be the most powerful man in the world.

The tremors worried him, yes. But he would find a way to fix them. Only one thing truly stood in his way. Or, to put it differently, two kids. Amy and Dan Cahill.

They couldn’t stop him. No one could. But Pierce was not a man who liked loose ends.

The Cahills are my final obstacle, he thought.But not for long. Because soon they’ll be dead.